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TECHNOLOGY FOCUS

Power Supplies Bulk up for High Reliability Work

The reliability of a military system is tightly linked to its choice of power supply technology. Vendors of such products continue to evolve their power technology innovations.

JEFF CHILD, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

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As military systems pack ever more computing into smaller spaces, power has direct implications on the size, cooling and mobility of a board- or box-level system. As a result military system designers can no longer afford to make their choice of power supplies and power conversion electronics an afterthought. Mix in the challenges of multi-voltage electronics and the complexity of distributed system architectures, and it's clear that military system designers need solutions that address those needs. Arguably the unsung hero of a system design, power supplies and converters are critical enablers for meeting today's rugged requirements.

To keep pace, power supply vendors continue to roll out more efficient products, new partitioning strategies and increased ruggedization. These new solutions continue to emerge not just at the component or brick level, but also at the module and board level. Meanwhile, uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) are now more critical than ever as computer and network gear pervade the battlefield.

In tandem to those trends, there's a growing demand to reduce size, weight and power (SWaP) of system electronics. And the two go hand in hand. More and more programs are pushing for as much computer processing muscle as can possibly fit into a board-level solution. Driving those demands is a desire to fit more functionality in the same space or into a smaller footprint. In the air, this means smaller and longer endurance for systems like UAVs. On the ground, this means more weight can be allocated to the all-important armor of ground vehicles. In the realm of high-power-density DC/DC converters, the modular form factor, commonly referred to as a brick, continues to be the preferred building block component for any application, commercial and military.

One example application area where high-reliability DC-DC convertor technology is critical is in space systems. DC-DC converters from VPT are used on board NASA's first asteroid sampling mission launched successfully in September from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, which was launched aboard the ULA's Atlas V, is traveling to near-Earth Asteroid Bennu (Figure 1). OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to reach the asteroid in 2018 to explore and eventually approach the asteroid to obtain a sample, which will be returned to Earth in 2023 for scientists to study. Asteroid Bennu is considered part of the early solar system and is classified as a potentially hazardous asteroid. The study of the asteroid's material will allow researchers to better understand the asteroid orbiting patterns as well as gain further understanding of the origins of life in the solar system.

Figure 1
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, which was launched aboard the ULA’s Atlas V, is traveling to near-Earth Asteroid Bennu.

The Hi Reliability Power Supplies Roundup and Links to the full data sheets for each product are posted on the roundup part of this section. Click here for the roundup.

 

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